Should You Choose Merbau Timber for Your Deck? Pros and Cons Of a Merbau Deck

Merbau wood is a popular hardwood timber used for decking in Australia. With its rich reddish-brown color, interlocking grain, and natural durability, merbau offers an attractive timber deck option that can also provide some protection against bushfires when compared to Australian hardwood decking alternatives. But is it the right choice for your new deck? This guide examines the advantages and disadvantages of using merbau timber for decking to help you decide. You may like to check out these other decking related artilces, such as “Merbau decking prices” and “Decks: The Ultimate Guide

What is Merbau Timber?

Merbau is a tropical hardwood sourced from the kwila tree native to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and other Pacific islands. Merbau trees also grow in parts of tropical Queensland. In Australia, most merbau is imported from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia and is a popular timber species used for outdoor decking and flooring.

Merbau hardwood has a straight grain and varies in color from pale brown to a deep reddish brown. It contains oils that help repel termites and microorganisms. Merbau timber used for decking is typically sourced from the heartwood of mature trees.

Facts About Merbau Decking: Key Advantages Of Merbau Decking

  • Attractive appearance – Rich reddish-brown color and distinctive grain
  • Hard and durable – Density and oils preserve against weathering and termites
  • Stability – Low shrinkage and movement minimizes cracks
  • Bushfire resistant – One of the most fire-retardant Australian decking timbers
  • Sustainable – Abundant supply with responsible harvesting

Potential Drawbacks of Merbau for Deck Boards

  • Expensive – Higher cost than composite and other decking options
  • Staining – Can bleed tannins leading to discoloration
  • Slippery – Oils result in a slippery surface when wet
  • Upkeep – Still requires oiling/staining to maintain color
  • Shrinkage – Planks can shrink leaving small gaps if improperly installed

Key Differences Between Merbau and Other Decking Materials

vs. Treated Pine

  • More expensive initially but longer lifespan of 25+ years
  • Far more resistant to rot, decay, and insect attacks
  • Richer color and grain compared to treated pine

vs. Composite

  • Natural wood look and feel vs. plastic/wood composite
  • Requires more maintenance like oiling vs low maintenance composite
  • Higher cost than many composite options

vs. Other Hardwoods

  • More bushfire resistant than most other hardwoods
  • Lower tannin content than spotted gum or blackbutt
  • Denser and more durable than jarrah or red ironbark

Is Merbau the Right Choice for Your New Deck?

Merbau is a great option if you want the beauty of real timber with excellent durability and performance. However, composite or pine require less maintenance over the lifespan. Consider your budget, desired aesthetic, and maintenance preferences when deciding on merbau vs other decking materials. Talk to a qualified deck builder to determine the best species for your project and location.


Q: Does merbau decking shrink?

A: Yes, merbau decking may experience some shrinkage over time. Wood is a natural material, and it can be influenced by environmental factors such as moisture levels and temperature changes. While merbau is known for its stability and resistance to shrinkage, it is not entirely immune to these effects.

However, it’s important to note that proper installation, regular maintenance, and using high-quality wood can help minimize and control any potential shrinkage. By following recommended care and maintenance practices, you can ensure the longevity and integrity of your merbau decking.

Q: Should I choose Merbau timber for my deck?

A: Merbau timber can be a great choice for your deck. It is a durable decking material that is suitable for outdoor use. It is known for its strength and natural beauty, with a grain design that ranges from brown to reddish-brown. However, it also has some disadvantages that you should consider before making a decision.

Q: What are the advantages of using Merbau timber for decking?

A: Merbau timber is a durable and strong decking material. It is resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage, making it ideal for outdoor use. The natural oils in Merbau timber also help protect it from moisture and UV rays. Additionally, Merbau timber has a beautiful appearance that can enhance the aesthetic appeal of your deck.

Q: Are there any disadvantages to using Merbau timber for decking?

A: Yes, there are some disadvantages to using Merbau timber for decking. One of the main disadvantages is that Merbau timber is not as hard as other timber decking materials. This means that it may be more prone to denting and scratching. Additionally, Merbau timber is also known for its high tannin content, which can cause staining when it comes into contact with certain substances.

Q: Can Merbau timber be used for building a deck?

A: Yes, Merbau timber can be used for building a deck. It is a popular choice for decking projects due to its durability and natural beauty. However, it is important to note that Merbau is a tropical timber, primarily sourced from Southeast Asia. It is also worth noting that Australia’s stock of Merbau is mostly imported.

Q: What other options are there besides Merbau timber for decking?

A: Besides Merbau timber, there are other options available for decking materials. One popular alternative is composite decking, which is made from a combination of wood fibers and recycled plastic. Composite decking offers low maintenance and is resistant to moisture, rot, and insects. It also comes in a variety of colors and styles.

Q: Is Merbau timber a good choice for outdoor furniture?

A: Merbau timber is a great timber for outdoor use, including outdoor furniture. Its natural durability and resistance to rot make it an excellent choice for furniture that will be exposed to the elements. Additionally, its attractive appearance adds a touch of elegance to outdoor spaces.

Q: What makes Merbau timber a durable decking material?

A: Merbau timber is a durable decking material due to its natural properties. It has a high density, making it strong and resistant to wear and tear. The natural oils present in Merbau timber also contribute to its durability by protecting it from moisture, fungi, and UV damage.

Q: How does Merbau timber compare to other decking materials?

A: Merbau timber is considered to be one of the most durable decking materials available. Its strength and resistance to rot, decay, and insect damage give it an advantage over many other timber options. However, it is important to consider the specific needs and preferences of your project before making a decision.

Q: Where is Merbau timber commonly sourced from?

A: Merbau timber is primarily sourced from tropical regions in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. These regions have a favorable climate for growing Merbau trees, which contributes to the timber’s natural durability and strength.

Q: What color does Merbau timber turn over time?

A: Merbau timber starts off with a brown to reddish-brown color. Over time, with exposure to sunlight and weathering, it can darken and develop a silver-gray patina. Regular maintenance, such as applying protective coatings, can help maintain the timber’s original color.

Key Considerations When Choosing Merbau Decking

  • Maintenance required – Needs periodic oiling/staining
  • Cost – More expensive than composites and treated pine
  • Aesthetic – Rich reddish-brown color and distinctive grain
  • Durability – Lasts 25+ years with proper maintenance
  • Stability – Low shrinkage rate minimizes cracks
  • Slipperiness – Oils result in slippery surface when wet
  • Bleeding – Tannins can cause some discoloration

Merbau offers beauty, durability, and stability for decking. But factor in the required maintenance and cost compared to alternatives when making your decking decision.

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